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The Rewire-NW project: delivering a Smart Local Energy System

Emily Lewis Emily Lewis Consulting Analyst
6th October 2020

The Rewire NW project was launched in spring 2020. Led by Pure Leapfrog, the project is developing plans to create a Smart Local Energy System (SLES) with a focus on leading the town of Warrington towards Net Zero. Cornwall Insight is a key project partner in the project, providing regulatory and policy support, conducting research and developing the local energy system in tandem with other project partners.

Rewire-NW is a forward-looking and innovative project that aims to connect Warrington using the latest technology to meet local energy needs in a sustainable and socially inclusive way. As well as focusing on a low carbon system, SLES will be designed to tackle fuel poverty and redefine the role of a local community in the energy system.

Cornwall Insight has been working on a number of aspects of the project since launch including a survey of local energy generating assets and analysing the costs of low carbon technology to establish the best generation for Warrington.                                                                                                                                                                                                       

What is a Smart Local Energy System?

Although defined in many ways, and with the potential for a range of different technologies and routes to implementation, the concept of a SLES is a technological and intelligence-based energy system that provides energy to a defined locality. The aim of the SLES is to use innovative approaches to create a more accessible and community-focused energy system.

The concept recognises that the power industry is becoming increasing decentralised, with power generating assets installed on roofs and in the local community. The presence of visible local assets can increase engagement with energy and pave the way for an increasingly integrated energy system.

Figure 1 captures the typical of the components that could create a SLES. The technology being investigated as part of the Rewire NW SLES include district heating networks run from a local energy center, solar farms, solar PV on rooftops, local battery storage and heat pumps in homes. As well as becoming increasingly decentralised, the Net Zero target means that the energy industry needs to make best use of local low carbon resources and assets to decarbonise electricity, heat and transport.

An integrated SLES will generate and use electricity and heat within the same local area. There are a variety of benefits to a local energy system; it can address local network constraints when adding renewable generation and storage technology as well as providing greater flexibility. Decreasing a local market’s reliability on large power stations improves local energy resilience. As well as these network benefits, SLESs can have a focus on community and consumer benefits as well. The aim of many local energy markets is to reduce the cost of energy for members of the local community as well as tackling social issues such as fuel poverty and assisting vulnerable citizens.

The future of energy systems looks increasingly complex and interlinked across power, heat and transport. SLESs aim to provide a mix of heating and electricity solutions for homes and businesses that are focused on the resources and needs of the local area. As part of the Rewire-NW project, Cornwall Insight will be at the forefront of innovative new ways of thinking about energy markets and systems. For more information, contact Emily on e.lewis@cornwall-insight.com